Friday, September 17, 2004

The one on spirituality in hip hop

The American hip hop industry suddenly seems to be acutely aware of the importance of a god in their lives - and many are professing their faith in Jesus Christ as a strong influence, if not the main reason they exist. It is an exciting time in music.

Tops on this list, naturally, is the Kanye West original, Jesus Walks. This groundbreaking rap song peaked in the top 15 of the Billboard Hot 100, quite a feat, given the content of the track. West was recently given a nomination for best gospel rap album in the Stellar Awards Gospel Music Academy's upcoming awards show, a bestowed honor questioned by several in the gospel industry. Regardless of whether West will be given the award, that secular musicians are starting to pursue the possibility of a Higher Being playing an integral role in their success is something altogether unprecedented.

The return of Mase is another phenomenon. The one-time chart-topping rapper left the music industry in 1999 to become a minister (!), a calling to which fellow musicians DMX and R. Kelly are not completely averse. His return is punctuated by a new album, out August 24th, that featured clean lyrics.

Several articles have been written on this, but I think contextualizing it in the Philippine setting will make it even more interesting, because there are rock bands and hip hop gospel artists in the Philippines. I will undoubtedly make an article on this for the magazine in the December issue. I've written the homies at Roc-afella asking for an interview, so prayers are requested, that the major playas will be down with my request for the 411. [Lord, I am soooooo white!]


Ian said...

Nice blog. Come check out mine and vote in my survey to figure out which religion is right.

Fell free to join my blogring as well.

Ganns said...

Thanks for the invite, Ian. :)

Thankfully, we don't have to rely on numbers to determine the truthfulness of one's faith. Your survey is very interesting, and when I find time and reason, I'll vote. Methinks I'll pass on the blogring invite as well - I want to be faithful to the blogring, and if I can't give it the time it deserves, I'd be a useless appendage, and I wouldn't want to be that.

Be superblessed, Ian!

Susan L. Prince said...

While I agree that music on the airwaves that "promotes" a belief in God is hardly a bad thing, but when one investigates further if the said "belief" is a "real faith" or a "said faith", questions arise.

One must be very discerning and I am actually unimpressed by a nomination of West's album as a "gospel album", let alone the "best"? Upon reading the lyrics/content included on the rest of the album, I wonder exactly what "gospel" is being referred to and why on earth someone would consider honoring it as a gospel recording is beyond me.

Read the liner notes to some rap CDs and there are often wonderful praises and thanks to God and sometimes thanks to Jesus Christ. I guess it is good to thank the Lord for talent and success, but is the success glorifying to God? or man? I am disgusted by most rap music and I am always looking for alternatives to suggest to people in the way of Grits, Cross Movement, T-Bone, Da Truth, etc.

I have a feeling that the "gospel" is about to become a "fad" in rap's becoming the "cool" thing because it's spiritual. 2Pac influence?

I pray that these artists do find the Lord and come to have a personal relationship with Him that is real. Mase has shown a life change, I'm not sure Kanye West, R. Kelly, or anyone else rappin' 'bout God "gets it".

I also have a concern that the lost, who listen to these artists, will not truly understand the gospel and what it means to serve the Lord. Kanye West raps about "Jesus Walks", but the rest of the CD hits on the topics of sex, drugs, and violence.

Ganns said...

I agree completely. Having purchased the "College Dropout" album two days ago, I've reviewed the music and find a lot of the songs quite different from "Jesus Walks."

Perhaps Mr. West's nomination will be dropped. Interviews with him regarding how the double standard of a Christian life vis-a-vis his current lifestyle hardly touch on the essential truths of a Christian lifestyle.

It remains to be seen. Meanwhile, Jesus Walks is still receiving tons of airplay.

Drina said...

Ganns, I too believe it's a great thing to see hip hoppers inviting faith into their music more and more. As for the inconsistency in Christian/not-so-Christian lyrics, it's not the ideal to have a song about Christ preceding a song about gratuitous sex and violence, but we have to remember that Christians are not all in the same place in life. After crossing the line into faith, some people jump ahead by leaps and bounds, but others struggle to move forward through a series of fits and starts. The Corinthians were infamous for engaging in 'un-Christian' beahviors, but they were still God's children... just children in dire need of help and correction.

We could all use some of that, actually. I have a lousy temper, sometimes use language I probably shouldn't, and have a tendency of telling people what they want to hear, but these are all things I'm working on. I'm willing to bet Kanye West would say the same.

Anyways, welcome back Ganns... we missed you :)

JM said...

Ei you're back blogging na pala... ngaun ko lang poh nalaman! And I'm thinking you forgot me on your links... will update my links too!


Susan L. Prince said...


I agree that Christians are at different places in our walks with God. A Christian who makes mistakes along the way, or a Christian who spouts very unedifying words when they are angry, is different than a person who professes to know God and then writes the very unedifying stuff down, as Kanye West did, puts it to music, and then releases an album. Maybe we shouldn't "glorify" the work of the latter Christian until more of the sanctification process has moved along. Paul didn't excuse the Corinthians behavior!

I do not see how the Holy Spirit living in a person would not convict said person about that behavior.

That said, I think what really bothers me is the attention it was given as a "gospel album"? I just don't understand that at all! So, for the lost person who picks up the CD and thinks that they are "spiritual", it conveys the idea that "I'm a Christian because I believe in God and use the word 'Jesus', and I can do and say whatever I want". The attitude is God forgives, it is an excuse, or an "out", for abhorrent behavior.

People like that will continue to have their "fits and starts" because before they take that first step, they say "God will forgive me", and go ahead with pleasing self.

The Christian, who knows the Truth, will discern that in a Kanye West album, the lost person who is most likely the person buying the album to begin with, will not discern that at all, and this is what concerns me more.

Drina said...

My intention was not to say that unChristian behavior not be addressed or that those who continue to engage in such not be approached and corrected, only that we can't make judgements about whether someone else is Christian or not on the basis of a song they publish. Not everyone is passed the stage of instense struggling.

cornerofhope said...

Goodness, there is a lot of useful data here!

mierda said...

Pretty helpful info, lots of thanks for this article.